Sound off: Judge’s decision prompts ‘quiet protest’ at courthouse
Taoseños were surprised Wednesday (Aug. 22) when a conspicuous monument appeared in the parking lot of the Taos County Administrative Complex: a 50-foot trailer mounted with a replica of the Liberty Bell that’s flanked on either side by a Styrofoam tablet inscribed with the Ten Commandments.
The “Traveling Liberty Bell and Law Memorial” is owned by Tom White of Eastland, Texas, who brought the bell and tablet replica to Taos after hearing about the “fervor all over the state of New Mexico if not the country” caused by a judge’s decision to release defendants in the high-profile case stemming from an Aug. 3 raid of a compound near Amalia in far western Taos County.
“I’m not trying to encourage people what to think, but for them to make up their own minds if the ruling of the judge is correct or not,” White said.
District Judge Sarah Backus released the defendants charged with child abuse, arguing the state had not proven they were a threat to the community. However, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj remains in custody on a warrant issued out of Georgia. Backus’ Aug. 13 decision sparked an immediate backlash, especially online. Several people called the courthouse to make threats against her, and the complex was evacuated because of it.
“The state Constitution provides that criminal defendants may be detained in jail pretrial only if prosecutors show by clear and convincing evidence that they are so dangerous that no release conditions will reasonably protect public safety. The judge ruled that prosecutors failed to meet that burden,” read a statement from New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts spokesperson Barry Massey.
White considers his traveling display a quiet protest. A sign hanging from the trailer read, “Judicial tyranny?” He told The Taos News he thinks Backus’ decision was “a bad ruling.”
“We are a country founded on law — the Ten Commandments — and we have liberty because of law,” said White, who said the display has been to 26 states and used in hundreds of military and law enforcement funerals.
A Taos County official instructed White to move his trailer by 2 p.m. White drove the trailer to a church parking lot south on Paseo del Pueblo Norte around 3 p.m. He plans to stay in Taos until Friday morning.
Tom White, of Eastland, Texas, brought the “Traveling Liberty Bell and Law Memorial” to the Taos County courthouse and complex for a quiet protest Wednesday (Aug. 22) of a recent highprofile ruling.
Tom White explains the reason for his quiet protest in front of the Taos County complex and courthouse Wednesday (Aug. 22).